Hearing reports that 92-year-old former first lady Barbara Bush was near death wasn’t a good way for anybody to wake up on Sunday morning, as the loss of life, almost no matter who it happens to, is typically very sad. Bush has reportedly decided to stop seeking medical treatment for what’s widely been described as her “failing health.”
The pain associated with losing a loved one, especially a person who has lived more than nine decades, can have a devastating effect on any set of family, friends and fans. But similarly, the pain experienced by Black people in the wake of several instances of Bush’s tone-deaf commentary when it comes to race can also be tough to reconcile.
We’re not saying the wife of the 41st president was a racist; she just had apparent racist tendencies that showed she was clearly left much to be desired when it came to the sway she discussed racism in America.
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Bush showcased her apparent indifference to the plight of Black women’s quest for legitimacy in the eyes of White America came when she expressed doubt, to put it mildly, over claims that Clarence Thomas had sexually harassed Anita Hill. She appeared to victim-shame Hill while defending the man who her husband nominated to succeed Thurgood Marshall, the first Black justice on the U.S. Supreme Court.
“Is this woman telling the truth?” Bush asked in her 1994 autobiography. “I do not mean to sit in judgment, but I will never believe that she, a Yale Law School graduate, a woman of the 80s, would put up with harassment for one moment, much less follow the harasser from job to job, call him when she came back to town and later invite him to speak to her students at Oral Roberts University.” She would go on to call Thomas “a good man” whose reputation had been wrongfully “smeared.”
She also wondered in “Barbara Bush: A Memoir” if a speech from Pat Buchanan, who ran against George H.W. Bush for the 1992 Republican presidential nomination, was “racist” or just “racial.” Considering Buchanan ran an “America first” campaign that was nearly identical to that of Donald Trump, it’s unclear how Bush could be confused about the nature of Buchanan’s words.
That apparent White sympathy seemed to also be on display in 2014, when she endorsed the campaign to re-elect Maine Gov. Paul Le Page. Bush supported him by appearing in a campaign ad two years before he called people of color “the enemy right now.”
Using a military analogy to justify his feelings of wanting to shoot drug offenders, Le Page said “the enemy right now… are people of color or people of Hispanic origin.” He continued: “When you go to war… and the enemy dresses in red and you dress in blue, then you shoot at red.” That comment came one year before he said “The NAACP should apologize to the white people, to the people from the North for fighting their battle.”
While it’s totally conceivable that Bush didn’t know that Le Page resented Black people, it’s doubtful.
But perhaps Bush’s greatest, or at least most infamous, racial faux pas came in the days following Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The deadly natural disaster affected millions of people, most of whom were Black. That fact was not lost on her when she told the media that how grateful the “underprivileged” Katrina victims should be for being displaced to Houston, where Bush has called home since leaving the White House in 1992.
“And so many of the people in the [Houston Astrodome] here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this is working very well for them,” Bush said. As if they would prefer to live in an arena-turned-homeless shelter instead of their own homes.
Black people are the most forgiving people in the history of humanity, so we will probably mourn Bush’s death with respect even though there is absolutely no excuse for the racism or discrimination she selectively paid attention to during her life. Lest we forget that she was still born into a world of exclusive White privilege nearly a century ago, even if it was in liberal New York City. To say that she was far removed from having any semblance of sympathy, empathy, or even any comprehensive understanding for and of the plight of Black people in America is a vast understatement.
She may have ultimately made strides in that department, notably by having a Black press secretary and recently by insisting then-candidate Donald Trump was a racist and a sexist, but her commentary when it came to race was routinely uninformed and misguided at best. But, hey, as time has shown over and over, the undefeated combination of wealth and Whiteness will do that, now won’t it?
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10 Years Later: Remembering Hurricane Katrina
1. Governors Kathleen Blanco of Louisiana and Haley Barbour of Mississippi declared states of emergency, and advised many to leave their homes on Aug. 26. With little preparation, many stayed behind to fight the storm and were left stranded.Source: 1 of 16
2. A family is seen trying to escape the wrath of Hurricane Katrina in the days it wreaked havoc in New Orleans.Source: 2 of 16
3. Over 30,000 were left without their homes and possessions because of the hurricane.Source:Getty 3 of 16
4. The National Guard and UNICEF arrived in New Orleans days after the storm arrived in its worst hit area, the Lower Ninth Ward. In the nation's history, this was the first time UNICEF was called to provide aid in the United States.Source: 4 of 16
5. Approximately 1,833 deaths were reported in the wake of the hurricane, but with no real memorial or list of the victims, many believe the number is much higher.Source: 5 of 16
6. For a week, 30,000 people took shelter in the Superdome, where they were given food and water. With limited medical help, reports claimed 100 people died, when only four died from exhaustion, another from an overdose, and one from an apparent suicide.Source: 6 of 16
7. More than a million housing units were destroyed during the storm. Half of them were from Louisiana.Source: 7 of 16
8. Because of the storm, half of the city's population dropped from 484,674 in April 2000 to 230,172 in July 2006.Source: 8 of 16
9. The difference in flooding was shocking to residents. While tourist areas were left undamaged, some places received one foot of flooding and others up to 10 feet of flooding.Source: 9 of 16
10. The majority of relief funds sent to New Orleans by George Bush ($120.5 billion) went to emergency relief ($75 billion), not rebuilding.Source: 10 of 16
11. Private insurance companies provided a total of $30 billion to residents, a lot less than federal aid provided.Source: 11 of 16
12. A reported 600,000 households were still displaced a month after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans.Source: 12 of 16
13. In the four days after the levees broke, 140 premature babies were brought to the Woman's Hospital in New Orleans.Source: 13 of 16
14. Midwives helped deliver 20 healthy babies in the storm's aftermath.Source: 14 of 16
15. While the city lost most of its residents after they were forced to relocate, a slight growth was seen in the city. In 2013, the Census Bureau reported a 2 percent growth (8,827 people) in the metro city area.Source: 15 of 16
16. From the Salvation Army: "@salvationarmyus continues to be a source of hope, stability, and service to the residents of the Gulf Coast 10 years after #hurricanekatrina. #doingthemostgood"Source: 16 of 16
Forgive But Don’t Forget: Remembering Those Times When Barbara Bush Waded Into The Waters Of Race was originally published on newsone.com